While fans everywhere have been mourning the loss of their favorite sports during the early months of 2020, we’re all still holding out hope that we can watch NFL games come autumn. Once the new season does get started, there are going to be a lot of intriguing storylines at football’s most important position.
Between seeing franchise stalwarts like Tom Brady and Philip Rivers in new uniforms for the first time since the early 2000s to eagerly watching how NCAA giants like Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa start their professional careers, there’s going to be plenty to keep us talking. Since the pandemic can’t stop us from speculating, we’re taking a look at the starting quarterback situation for all 32 NFL teams headed into the 2020 season and ranking them from worst to best.
32. Dwayne Haskins — Washington Redskins
This ranking is not a judgment on Dwayne Haskins’ talent as a quarterback but rather the unfortunate position he’s in as the on-field leader of a terrible organization. Haskins was brilliant during his college career at Ohio State, throwing for 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his final season, but now he’s playing for an organization that has proven it has no clue how to field a winning team.
In the seven NFL games he started in 2019, Haskins threw for less than 200 yards per game and maintained a passer rating of 76.1, none of which inspired much confidence in Redskins fans.
31. Drew Lock — Denver Broncos
If we were basing our rankings on a passer’s record as a starter in 2019, Drew Lock would be a lot higher. In the five games he started for the Broncos over the aging Joe Flacco, the team went 4-1 and looked to be full of new life. However, Lock’s numbers during that remarkable run didn’t do much to indicate he’s the next Drew Brees. He threw for about 200 yards per game and completed seven touchdown passes versus three picks. That’s not bad, but we need to see a lot more before we’re ready to rank him among the best.
30. Sam Darnold — New York Jets
In the two years since he was drafted, the Sam Darnold experience hasn’t been a great one for Jets fans. Of course, they’re probably used to disappointment by now, but we hate to tell them that 2020 doesn’t look to be much better for the young quarterback. In his first two seasons, he’s maintained an awful passer rating of 81.1, while averaging less than 3,000 passing yards a season. The bottom line is that Darnold needs to greatly improve his accuracy if the Jets are going to be in contention for the new, Tom Brady-free AFC East.
29. Josh Allen — Buffalo Bills
Yes, the Bills made the playoffs in 2019 for only the second time since 1999, but they might have done it in spite of Josh Allen’s play at quarterback. If you took a blind look at his numbers, you’d have to think he was one of the worst passers in the league and would never guess he led a winning team. In the last two seasons, Allen has had a passer rating of 78.2 and has thrown 21 interceptions to just 30 touchdowns.
Many people point to his ability as a runner as a way to single Allen out for praise but, in our humble opinion, he’s still not doing enough to be ranked in the top half of the league’s QB crop.
28. Nick Foles — Chicago Bears
What a ride it’s been trying to follow Nick Foles’ career over the past few seasons. When he was a backup for the Eagles, he looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the league, even leading the team to a Super Bowl win. But injuries and overall lousy performance wrecked what should’ve been his breakout year as the starter for the Jaguars in 2019, leading to his trade to the Bears this offseason. It looks like he’ll be splitting time with Mitch Trubisky as Chicago’s starter, leaving the team with two shaky options at this point.
27. Jarrett Stidham — New England Patriots
It’s been about 20 years since we had to guess who the starting quarterback for the Patriots would be, but that’s the case this offseason. While Cam Newton or Andy Dalton could be scooped up out of free agency, signs are pointing toward Tom Brady’s 2019 backup, Jarrett Stidham, as the franchise’s next starter. If Stidham does get the job, we don’t have a ton of evidence to sell him as a stellar option, but he proved to be an accurate passer at Baylor and Auburn, where he averaged about 2,400 passing yards a season, plus a total of 48 passing touchdowns and 13 picks.
Stidham’s placement on the list is mainly due to the brilliance of Bill Belichick in creating great situations for any quarterback that has filled in during the past 20 years, which should give the young passer plenty of confidence.
26. Daniel Jones — New York Giants
When Daniel Jones took over starting duties in New York from Eli Manning during the 2019 season, Giants fans quickly fell in love after the team went 2-0 behind the rookie. However, they’d end up losing nine of his next 10 starts, and the fanbase quickly missed the veteran. In those 12 starts last season, Jones proved to be a talented playmaker, accounting for 26 touchdowns in the air and on the ground, as well as 3,300 total yards of offense.
The fact that he threw 12 picks didn’t please anyone, but we saw enough from Jones to think he can be a very good starter, particularly with Saquon Barkley behind him.
25. Tua Tagovailoa — Miami Dolphins
It’s likely that veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick may be starting for the Dolphins come opening day, but we’re breaking down the newly drafted Tua Tagovailoa, since he’s the team’s great hope. For the better part of three seasons, Tagovailoa was nothing short of brilliant at Alabama, but it was a series of injuries that cast doubt on his NFL prospects. Experts have said there shouldn’t be any lingering effects from the worst one, a dislocated hip suffered in 2019, but we are still a bit wary since we haven’t seen him in action in nearly six months.
Tagovailoa played in a pro-style offense under Nick Saban and was incredibly accurate, completing 70% of his passes over the last two seasons. The left-hander’s 6-foot frame might not excite many fans but his best highlight films certainly will.
24. Justin Herbert — Los Angeles Chargers
Despite the Chargers having Tyrod Taylor on their roster, we’re betting that new franchise hope Justin Herbert will be the starter in 2020. In his four seasons at Oregon, Herbert stood out as one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12 by consistently getting better every year. His senior outing saw the West Coast lifer throw for more than 3,400 yards, 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He didn’t play in a pro-style offense like rival rookie starter Tua Tagovailoa, but Herbert’s 6-feet-6-inch frame means he could have a leg up.
23. Baker Mayfield — Cleveland Browns
After the Browns were touted to be one of the league’s best teams in 2019, they gave their loyal fans one of the most disappointing seasons in the franchise’s long history, mostly due to the erratic play of Baker Mayfield. The popular quarterback has been wildly inconsistent in his first two seasons as a pro, throwing the ball to opposing defenders nearly as often as he does to his own receivers. In 2019, Mayfield’s 22 touchdown passes were nearly matched by his 21 interceptions, while his average of 239.2 passing yards per game didn’t make him look any better.
We’ll need to see a big improvement in 2020 to raise our expectations of Mayfield.
22. Ben Roethlisberger — Pittsburgh Steelers
We’ve seen older quarterbacks do some amazing things in the past few seasons, but we’re not expecting much from Ben Roethlisberger in 2020. An elbow injury on his throwing arm forced the 38-year-old Steelers icon to miss 14 games in 2019, and he’s coming back to a team that, frankly, doesn’t look very dangerous on offense. Roethlisberger has dazzled NFL fans plenty of times in the past, and when he’s been active over the past few seasons, he’s been prolific, but last season felt like the beginning of the end for the future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
21. Derek Carr — Las Vegas Raiders
Fortunes have really fallen for Derek Carr since his injury at the end of a miraculous 2017 season. In the past two seasons, his reputation has been that of a more middling quarterback than was initially thought — but that may be a bit unfair. After all, Carr hasn’t missed a start since 2018 and has completed nearly 70% of his passes, while averaging more than 4,000 passing yards per year. Carr’s touchdown numbers are pretty weak compared to others on this list and that accounts for his low placement, but we’d like to see him bounce back into that elite tier in his team’s first year in Las Vegas.
20. Matthew Stafford — Detroit Lions
While the Lions have been consistently mediocre for virtually his entire tenure, Matthew Stafford has been a reliable playmaker under center. Injuries caused him to miss eight games last season, but when he’s been active over the past two years, he’s given the Lions about 4,200 passing yards and 27 touchdowns per 16 games. The fact that the team lost every game he didn’t play in last season further proves his value to the franchise, even if he hasn’t been able to lead them to the playoffs since 2016.
19. Teddy Bridgewater — Carolina Panthers
Is 2020 finally Teddy Bridgewater’s time to shine? Since being drafted by the Vikings in 2014, he’s mostly played as a backup, but his undefeated run filling in for Drew Brees as the Saints starter in 2019 raised his profile considerably. The Panthers took a chance on Bridgewater and have made him their starter after bidding farewell to Cam Newton. Bridgewater’s numbers are mostly pedestrian overall (2,783 passing yards per 16 games) but his 99.1 passer rating was impressive, and he’s joined a team with arguably the NFL’s best offensive weapon in Christian McCaffrey.
18. Gardner Minshew — Jacksonville Jaguars
There’s an awful lot to like about Gardner Minshew, but he still needs to show us a bit more to vault up this list. In his rookie season, filling in for the injured Nick Foles for 12 starts in Jacksonville, the “Jock Strap King” threw for 3,271 yards and had an outstanding ratio of 21 touchdown passes to six interceptions. The 344 rushing yards he tacked on also didn’t hurt his standing. Minshew’s status as a fan-favorite will only keep growing if he improves in 2020.
17. Jared Goff — Los Angeles Rams
Jared Goff’s numbers look very pretty most of the time but we’re still just not sure what to expect from him on a yearly basis. The Rams passer has only missed one start in the past three seasons and has kept the franchise as one of the league’s best in that span. Since 2018, he’s been averaging 4,663 passing yards a season on a solid passer rating of 93.4 but 2019 saw him look uncharacteristically bad, throwing a career-high 16 interceptions to a paltry 22 touchdowns. Losing Todd Gurley in the offseason surely won’t help his prospects, either.
16. Carson Wentz — Philadelphia Eagles
With Andy Dalton now looking for a job, Carson Wentz is the NFL’s best redhead passer by default. To be fair, he’s earned that great honor by doing enough to keep the Eagles dangerous over the past few seasons and not causing them to lose games because of carelessness. The oft-injured quarterback didn’t miss a start in 2019 and had the best year of his career, throwing for 4,039 yards, 27 touchdowns and only seven picks, which is the exact number he’s thrown in every season since 2017. He’s consistently good but we still aren’t ready to rank Wentz among the most game-changing starters in football.
15. Ryan Tannehill — Tennessee Titans
We know Ryan Tannehill suddenly looked like Joe Montana in 2019, but call us pessimistic on his 2020 outlook. His 7-3 run as the Titans starter, which included a league-best passer rating of 117.5 and 22 touchdown passes to six interceptions, was remarkable, but we’d be fools to expect that kind of play from him for the long run. Since coming into the league in 2012, Tannehill has been the definition of decent, completing 63.5% of his passes and averaging about 3,300 passing yards per season. He’s got a talented team around him in Tennessee but we’re not sure he was worth $29.5 million a year.
14. Philip Rivers — Indianapolis Colts
A couple years ago, Philip Rivers looked like arguably the best quarterback in football, but things have changed in a hurry. After 16 mostly excellent seasons in a Chargers uniform, Rivers finds himself playing for the Colts in 2020 and nobody knows quite what to expect. The NFL’s reigning iron man hasn’t missed a start since 2006, so you know he’ll be healthy, but at 38 years old and in a new offense for the first time in forever, can we really expect him to keep averaging 4,400 yards a season as he’s done this whole decade? We doubt it, especially with his interception figure nearly reaching a career high in 2019.
13. Joe Burrow — Cincinnati Bengals
We wouldn’t typically rank a rookie this highly, but Joe Burrow was so good in college that he seems like a guarantee at the next level. His senior season at LSU, which included a Heisman Trophy and national title win, has been called by some the best season by any player in 150 years of college football history. In case you missed it, he threw for a mind-blowing 5,671 yards in 15 games, completed 76.3% of his passes and threw for 60 touchdowns to just six picks. Throw in the fact that he hasn’t missed a start since before high school and you’ve got a prospect that only the Bengals could screw up.
12. Tom Brady — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Given the fact that he’ll be 43 years old when the season is scheduled to start and he’ll be playing in a new offense for the first time since 2000, it’s probably insane to have Tom Brady ranked this high on the list. However, we’ve seen him consistently defy all logic when it comes to reasonable expectations at every turn in his legendary career.
Brady hasn’t missed a start since 2016 and has been playing some of the best football of his life since then, averaging better than 4,300 passing yards a season in the past three years. Brady has never been careless with the football, and he’s going to have plenty to prove being away from Bill Belichick for the first time ever, which is why we think he’ll have another memorable year. Plus, having Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and his old buddy Rob Gronkowski to throw to gives him one of the best receiving groups he’s ever had.
11. Kyler Murray — Arizona Cardinals
This season is going to be a big one for Kyler Murray to prove he belongs among the league’s best quarterbacks. The reigning rookie of the year gave the Cardinals a combined 4,266 yards of offense per game in 2019 with his arm and legs, immediately putting defenses on notice. His ratio of 20 passing touchdowns to 12 interceptions left something to be desired, but Murray avoided making the kind of boneheaded mistakes that cause fans to give up on rookie stars early. In 2020, he’ll have the considerable talents of receiver DeAndre Hopkins added to his arsenal, setting him up for an even better year.
10. Drew Brees — New Orleans Saints
Another guy who has defied the law of aging is Drew Brees, but we’ve softened our expectations for him a bit in 2020. His numbers have been mind-blowing over the past few seasons, including leading the league in completion percentage for three straight years, but 2019 saw him uncharacteristically banged up. The icon missed five games, which is the most he’d missed since 2003. That’s not something we’d worry about with a 25-year-old QB, but with Brees now north of 41, we’re not sure what to expect.
9. Matt Ryan — Atlanta Falcons
You might think Matt Ryan hasn’t been the same since that soul-shattering loss in the 2017 Super Bowl, but really, it’s the Falcons who’ve fallen apart around him. Ryan is still giving his teammates gaudy numbers every season, averaging about 4,500 passing yards, 27 touchdown passes and 11 picks per season in the past three years. While Ryan led the league in completions in 2019, he threw the most interceptions he’d thrown since 2015, which isn’t a great sign. Will the addition of Todd Gurley help bring Ryan back to the MVP conversation? We’ll soon find out.
8. Jimmy Garoppolo — San Francisco 49ers
Now is the time the Patriots are probably wishing they’d held onto Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s finally blossomed into the legitimate starting quarterback that Bill Belichick apparently saw him becoming. During a breakout 2019 season, Garoppolo started all 16 games for the first time in his career and led the 49ers to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl appearance. He threw for nearly 4,000 yards, completed nearly 70% of his passes and had a passer rating of 102.0. There’s no reason to think he’ll go backward at this point.
7. Deshaun Watson — Houston Texans
Deshaun Watson has been simply incredible over the past two seasons, continuing to make his case for being counted among the game’s elite quarterbacks. He’s missed only one start since 2018 and has given the Texans an average of nearly 4,500 total offensive yards per season through the air and on the ground. The fact that he’s personally accounted for 32 touchdowns per season in that span also accounts for his high ranking. He lost DeAndre Hopkins in the offseason, which could seriously damage his passing figures, but we think Watson has more than enough talent to deserve this placement.
6. Kirk Cousins — Minnesota Vikings
There’s still a hot debate over whether or not Kirk Cousins deserves the ridiculous money the Vikings are paying him, but he’s certainly been proving his value over the past few years. The team itself hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations, but Cousins has missed only one start in the past two seasons and has averaged 28 passing touchdowns to just eight interceptions in that time. He’s proven to be one of the game’s most accurate passers and doesn’t make the kind of mistakes that quarterbacks who are lower on this list frequently do, completing 69.7% of his passes since 2018.
5. Aaron Rodgers — Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers took the Packers back to the NFC Championship Game in 2019 and what did he get for his trouble? The franchise trading up in the 2020 NFL Draft and taking a quarterback in the first round. That could either light a fire under the future Hall of Famer heading into this season or make him miserable, but we are expecting his competitive spirit to send him soaring. In the past couple of years, he’s protected the football like a mother bear watches her cub, throwing an incredible six total interceptions in the past two seasons, all while never missing a start.
Rodgers has been the picture of consistent excellence for a decade and we don’t expect that to change a bit in 2020.
4. Lamar Jackson — Baltimore Ravens
In 2019, Lamar Jackson put together arguably the most exciting season of quarterback play that has ever been seen in the NFL. He accounted for a remarkable 4,300 offensive yards between passing and running, and 43 touchdowns for the Ravens en route to being named league MVP. The fact that he’s thrown just nine interceptions in 31 career games is indicative of how precise his arm has been. Jackson’s record of 19-3 as a starter since his rookie campaign in 2018 is also astounding and shows the way his play has motivated his teammates to greatness.
Given his style of run-heavy play, injuries are always a concern with Jackson, but if he stays upright, he’ll continue to be among the elites.
3. Dak Prescott — Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys haven’t been the world-beating team their talented roster should’ve made them over the past couple years, but that’s not Dak Prescott’s fault. The quarterback has been very good over the past couple of seasons, which is why we picked him as the best free agent on the market in the NFL this offseason. He’ll be back with the Cowboys and we expect him to continue the impressive run he’s had under center. Since 2018, Prescott hasn’t missed a start, has averaged about 4,600 yards of offense per season and has maintained a passer rating of 98.4. He appears to only be getting better.
2. Russell Wilson — Seattle Seahawks
The play of Russell Wilson over the past few seasons has been the kind of stuff that should ensure him a spot in the Hall of Fame one day. In 2019, he continued his run of never missing a start since his 2012 rookie campaign and looked arguably better than he ever has — which is saying something. Over the past two seasons, he’s averaged 33 touchdown passes to just six interceptions per season and a passer rating of 108.4, which is even better than his already stellar career passer rating of 101.2.
Following back-t0-back Pro Bowl seasons, we’re expecting Wilson to keep fueling the argument that he might be the best quarterback in football come the 2020 season.
1. Patrick Mahomes — Kansas City Chiefs
Who else could top the list? After leading the Chiefs to the franchise’s first Super Bowl win in 50 years, he’s basically earned NFL legend status before his 25th birthday. That big win was just the punctuation mark on two years of consistently stellar quarterback play for Mahomes, who has averaged 4,564 passing yards and 38 touchdown passes per season since 2018. Add on to that a 110.0 passer rating in that span, plus the repertoire of unpredictable, highlight-reel passes he’s able to complete and this mantle is Mahomes’ to lose.